John Gottman’s Four Horsemen: Defensiveness

By Sarah P.

This post is the third segment in the John Gottman’s Four Horsemen series. In this post, I will be discussing defensiveness. But, before we jump into the post, I would like for you to watch this video. It’s only about 5 minutes long so let’s dive in:

 

 

I really like what the video blogger has to say about general defensiveness. However, I have one huge caveat: it is a bad idea to use the recommended technique of ‘arguing the other person’s side’ if you are a betrayed spouse.

I believe that it is helpful if a cheating spouse puts himself or herself in the betrayed spouse’s shoes. But, I do not believe it is helpful or reasonable for the betrayed spouse to put himself or herself in the cheating spouse’s shoes.

The betrayed spouse should never have to put himself or herself in the cheating spouse’s shoes. That would not only make a betrayed spouse come emotionally unhinged, it would also play into a cheating spouse’s need to defer blame to someone else. Even though defensiveness is one of the Four Horsemen, I also believe defensiveness is one of the most frequent tools used by cheating spouses after they have been caught.

John Gottman’s Four Horsemen: Defensiveness

Now, let us get back to the topic of general defensiveness. I believe that everyone employs defensiveness as a tactic to protect himself or herself has several things going on: guilt, shame, denial, need to cover up wrongdoings, need to control, and/or feelings of victimization. (When I am talking about defensiveness, I am not referring to standing up for oneself.)

Thus, I will be discussing both general defensiveness and also defensiveness as it related to infidelity. In fact, when marriages break up after an affair, it is almost always because of the poor communication and lying rather than the act itself. Even though the the act of infidelity causes so much harm, defensiveness and secrecy can take an even larger toll on the marriage.

Dr. Mark D. Ogletree said, “ Defensiveness is an automatic, emotional reaction to criticism which is hard to resist engaging in. Being defensive is a defense mechanism. Gottman argues that, “defensiveness is fundamentally an attempt to protect yourself and ward off a perceived attack.” Unfortunately, when marriage partners become defensive in marriage, first, they become closed off to some of the suggestions their spouse is providing to them.

Gottman added, “The major problem with defensiveness is that it obstructs communication. Rather than understanding each other’s perspective you spend your discussions defending yourselves. Nothing gets resolved, so the conflict continues to escalate.  Moreover, even if your partner is critical of you, some of their suggestions may be very helpful for our growth and improvement. Second, defensiveness creates contention in all relationships. When defensiveness and contention are present, the conversation is usually over—at least the productive part. Defensiveness leaves marriage partners feeling unheard or misunderstood. Third, defensiveness keeps individuals from accepting responsibility for their actions. If a spouse is defensive, they are justifying their behavior, or blaming their partner for the problem.” (1)

John Gottman’s Four Horsemen: DefensivenessDefensiveness in Action 

Defensiveness is easy to spot because it often shuts down communication. Jack Gibb describes this process in detail:

Defensive behavior is defined as that behavior which occurs when an individual perceives threat or anticipates threat in the group. The person who behaves defensively, even though he or she also gives some attention to the common task, devotes an appreciable portion of energy to defending himself or herself. Besides talking about the topic, he thinks about how he appears to others, how he may be seen more favorably, how he may win, dominate, impress or escape punishment, and/or how he may avoid or mitigate a perceived attack.

Such inner feelings and outward acts tend to create similarly defensive postures in others; and, if unchecked, the ensuing circular response becomes increasingly destructive. Defensive behavior, in short, engenders defensive listening, and this in turn produces postural, facial and verbal cues which raise the defense level of the original communicator. Defense arousal prevents the listener from concentrating upon the message. Not only do defensive communicators send off multiple value, motive and affect cues, but also defensive recipients distort what they receive. As a person becomes more and more defensive, he or she becomes less and less able to perceive accurately the motives, the values and the emotions of the sender.” (2)

Ellie Lisitsa of The Gottman Institute continued,  “Defensiveness is defined as self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack. Many people become defensive when they are being criticized, but the problem is that its perceived effect is blame. Defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, “The problem isn’t me, it’s you.” As a result, the problem is not resolved and the conflict escalates further. The antidote is to accept responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict.”(3)

But, defensiveness is also different than standing up for oneself. Often, when someone is trying to gaslight another person and that person stands up for himself, the gaslighter will tell that person they are being defensive. And this type of mislabeling can help the gaslighter achieve his goal—which is to make his or her victim feel as if they are mentally unhinged.

Defensiveness comes from a place of not wanting to accept responsibility for an objective behavior that was perpetrated. Here is an example of defensiveness:

Mary: Honey, you said you would be home at 6pm and came home at 9pm again.

Josh: What? I didn’t say that– and even if I did, what is it to you if I am a few minutes late? You are not my boss!

In this example, Mary is stating a fact about Josh’s behavior. Instead of owning up to the behavior, he wanted to make Mary the problem by implying she was controlling. Josh was being defensive.

On the other hand, standing up for oneself is stating the truth about one’s part (or not) in an event if someone is trying to make you shoulder the blame for something you did not do. Here is an example of standing up for oneself:

Frank: If you would have been a better wife, I would not have had to have an affair with my secretary.

Victoria: Regardless of what I did or did not do, your affair is a separate issue that has nothing to do with me. Your affair was a choice you made of your own free will.

Frank is trying to make Mary accept the blame for his affair so that he does not have to. Mary is standing up for herself by stating the fact that Frank’s affair was a choice made of his own free will and had no connection to Mary.

Affair Defensiveness/Rage

When a wayward spouse enters a defensive mindset, defensiveness can often turn to rage. From a betrayed spouse’s point of view, this rage may seem like it comes out of nowhere. And, from the perspective of a betrayed spouse, a raging wayward spouse does not make sense. If anyone is justified in their anger, it is the betrayed spouse. After all, the betrayed spouse isn’t the one who ruined everything.

What causes rage in a wayward spouse?

I believe that the two main factors that drive rage in a wayward spouse are denial and reluctance to take ownership of bad decision. Of course, there are other things that could cause rage to be triggered, but the desire to remain in denial and inability to take ownership are extremely common.

Under the concept of denial, we also find other concepts such as the ‘affair fog.’ If the affair fog has not worn off, then the wayward spouse can be in denial about his or her wrongdoing as well as denial of the seriousness of the situation. If the affair fog has worn off, then a wayward spouse still might use denial as a protective measure for his or her own psyche. This often looks as if a wayward spouse has no insight into his or her behavior.

Under the concept of lacking ownership, we find such behaviors as wanting to sweep the details of the affair under the rug, rewriting the affair story, lies of omission and commission, and/or simply shutting down when the betrayed spouse wants to talk about it.

If a betrayed spouse wishes to communicate with a wayward spouse who wants to either sweep things under the rug and/or remain in denial, trying to talk about it will trigger extreme defensiveness. If a betrayed spouse continues to communicate, this can often turn to rage.

On the other hand, rage can also be triggered due to a wayward spouse’s internal thoughts. A wayward spouse could have intrusive thoughts all day long that cause him (or her) shame. When someone feels shame, shame can easily turn to rage. In some cases, the betrayed spouse doesn’t have to talk about the affair at all—they just have to exist—and their existence triggers rage because it is a symbol of what the wayward spouse did wrong.

Even if a wayward spouse seems to have no insight whatsoever, he or she often does have insight. Insight is often buried so far down because recognizing it would cause an entire ‘house of cards’ to fall down.

Here’s why: everyone wants to be the hero of their own story. Most people are only comfortable in the role of the “good guy.” When someone has an affair, there is suddenly objective evidence that demonstrates that person is actually the bad guy.

Two out of the Ten Commandments prohibit adultery; one commandment addresses the mental aspect of adultery and the other commandment addresses the physical aspect of adultery.

Many people in the United States believe the Ten Commandments are the final authority. So, when someone commits adultery, they know on some level that they are doing something really wrong. And if they are doing something really wrong, both in the eyes of God and of others, they will experience what is called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is basically the “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.” (2)

A classic example of cognitive dissonance can be seen in society’s attitudes about infidelity. When asked, almost everyone will say that having an affair while married is wrong. Yet, up to 40% of those same people have affairs. There is a disconnect between their moral standards and their actions. This causes tremendous and on-going shame because a person has to reconcile their internal narrative of being a good guy with the objective evidence that would tell them they are not good at all.

Some people will re-write all of the facts of an event—and even large facts—just to cause themselves to be the (alleged) heroes of their own affair stories. This is no more evident than in the ongoing saga of an adulterous pair at my husband’s work. I have written about this pair before because of the outrageousness of their actions.

Remember Steve and Nina?

To recap: both of these people, Steve* and Nina*, met at work while married to other people and they each had three children (for a total of six children). Nina made it her goal to break up Steve’s marriage since she saw a better deal in him—that is, Steve had more money and status than her husband or anyone else she knew since she came from a lower-class background.

Of course, Steve also went willingly and gladly skipped hand-in-hand with Nina down the primrose path to destruction. All six children have been traumatized and the community has rallied around both betrayed spouses. Both betrayed spouses have excellent reputations because of their tireless volunteer work and their kindness. Steve and Nina have lost all of their friends and their reputations.

This week Nina has been on a campaign to tell any person who will listen (in her workplace) about her side of the story. Of course, her side of the story omits any kind of factual information and paints a picture that is blatantly false on all counts. She paints herself of the hero to anyone who will listen.

Thus, Nina has been telling everyone that she saved Steve’s life. Nina has been spinning tales about saving Steve from a dangerous, abusive, religious cult, a wicked wife, and ungrateful, spoiled children. Now, this story could gain traction except for one thing—there were and continue to be many witnesses to this affair who all agree these stories have not even an ounce of truth.

The truth according to several third parties: the religious cult that Nina actually “saved” Steve from was not an abusive religious cult at all. It was simply a non-denominational, modern Christian church where Steve was also a church elder. No, this was not a locked-in, walled facility constructed by a David Koresh type—and Jim Jones was not handing out Kool-aid either. But, Nina tells it this way.

Steve’s very beautiful ex-wife was not a wicked woman. Unlike Nina, Steve’s ex-wife was and is a selfless and well-loved member of her community who thinks of others before she thinks of herself. Steve’s ex-wife is was also a devoted wife and remains a great mother, despite losing her home, her way of life, and her husband. And what about Steve’s ungrateful children that Nina spoke of—surely they are spoiled, right? Actually, those teens spend holiday breaks doing mission trips to third-world countries and trying to get food to villages.

This is a very striking example of the lengths to which someone will go in order to paint himself or herself as “the good guy” despite all of the evidence to the contrary. This is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance; the actual behavior does not match the way the people involved think of themselves. So, the narrative continues that Steve and Nina were victims of their families and that everyone else was wrong except for them.

So how does Steve and Nina’s story relate to this?

Well, I believe their narrative likely started with defensiveness and denial. Of course, there were many other things involved. But, when others suggest these two might have played a negative role in their coupling, both become extremely defensive and launch into the victim role. It really is a match made in you-know-where.

The affair of Steve and Nina has made such an impression on me because I still cannot figure out how such a wonderful woman, Steve’s ex-wife, was thrown overboard for someone who is well below her. It would be like watching someone drive up in a Ferrari and then fight with another man over a dented station wagon without working brakes. In other words, it would be just absurd.

On the other hand, it is common knowledge that cheaters have affairs with people who are far below their spouses. In fact, most of these affair partners are no better than the goo from the bottom of a barrel. Most commonly, a wayward spouse will wake up before his marriage lands in divorce court. Long before most marriages end, wayward spouses realize that they were only scraping the bottom of the barrel to see what was there—but they did not actually want to keep the scrapings. No, they wanted to stay married even while they explored.

I am absolutely shocked that Steve and Nina are together and plan to marry during the summer. Also, Steve lost tremendously in all of this. He lost a large, beautiful home on acreage, he lost a lot of his retirement, he was removed from his elder role and shunned by the entire congregation, none of his children will speak to him under any circumstance, he had to leave his former job because of the scandal, and he lost all of his friends. In addition to that, he lost a stunningly beautiful wife who continues to be well-respected by everyone. I just cannot fathom why he left. Nina is not any of those things and has nothing, so I simply cannot see any payoff from this situation. (If any of you reading this have a theory, please let me know.)

So it is, that a general attitude of defensiveness is all too easy for a wayward spouse. If a wayward spouse is pressed to see the truth, defensiveness can easily turn to rage. Neither are helpful for marriage and both have the ability to create some roadblocks to affair recovery.

Finally, both defensiveness and rage can be used as intimidation tactics. Often, the first causes the recipient of a defensive attitude to drop the subject; the latter has the ability to cause the recipient of rage not to bring it up ever again. Of course, some betrayed spouses will fight and refuse to be intimidated.

In Summary

Defensiveness is generally poisonous to marriage and this is why it is one of John Gottman’s Four Horsemen. In addition, defensiveness is a favorite tactic used by wayward spouses. Wayward spouses use it to manipulate situations and defensiveness cannot be a part of infidelity recovery. Rather, wayward spouses need to drop this stance; otherwise, it can slow down the recovery process. After all, someone who is defensive will lack a lot of the insight it takes in order to do his or her part in recovery. I am not saying it is impossible; I am just saying it is an unnecessary difficulty.

In the next post, I will be discussing stonewalling, which is the last of the Four Horsemen. So, please stay tuned.

Do you have any stories about how defensiveness has impacted your marriage in regards to infidelity?  If so, please share in the comment section below.

Opt In Image
The Affair Recovery Movement
Guiding You Through the 5 Stages of Affair Recovery

A  member’s only area where the focus will be on recovering and healing from infidelity through interaction with us,  a supportive community, access to volumes of materials and resources, and guidance from those who have been down this road before.

We want to help you get to a better place. 

Sources

Dr. Mark D. Ogletree, Defensiveness in Marriage. From http://markogletree.com/content/defensiveness-marriage 

Gibb, Jack R. Defensive Communication. From http://reagle.org/joseph/2010/conflict/media/gibb-defensive-communication.html

Lisitsa, Ellie. The Four Horsemen: Defensiveness. From https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-defensiveness/

 

Please follow and like us:
Follow by Email
Facebook
Google+
https://www.emotionalaffair.org/john-gottmans-four-horsemen/
Twitter
PINTEREST

, , ,

63 Responses to John Gottman’s Four Horsemen: Defensiveness

  1. TheFirstWife February 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    This is very interesting. I like the reference to why the defensiveness occurs. To deflect blame and responsibility for the choices or behavior.

    I live with that behavior in my house. If I ask for my kids not to eat in their bedroom, as an example, and then I find food in the bedroom, then I get defensive behavior and excuses.

    It is even more maddening when my H does it.

    Example. I asked him NOT to tell someone about his affair. One person only please do not tell. He did it anyway and when I asked him why he had to tell that person despite my request I had to live with a defensive response etc. I am sure in his mind that was my fault too. Haha

    But seriously I am trying to get past this situation with him. It is very very slowly improving.

    • Sarah P. March 1, 2017 at 8:29 pm #

      Hi TFW,

      I have to say that I would be frustrated if my H did that. Did he ever say why he felt the need to tell this person about his affair despite you asking him not to? What does he get out of telling this person?

      • TheFirstWife March 2, 2017 at 7:39 am #

        Sarah. He gave me some lame excuse as to why he told this friend. I don’t know why he felt the need to tell him when he would not tell his own family when we were on the verge of divorce.

        I am still bothered by the fact he just did not respect my wishes.

        But as I have come to learn that is typical at times.

        He had no problem telling a girl he went to grad school with. Complete data dump and told her all the details. Not sure the benefit he got out of telling her. She is much younger and newly married and lives in a different state but it wasn’t like they were best friends or anything.

        Honestly I have no answer as to why he ignored my wishes. Maybe he needed to get it off his chest but I thin there were other friends he could talk to.

  2. TheFirstWife February 28, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

    My theory on the Nina choice.

    The first well respected lovely wife was cast aside b/c Nina offered something to Steve – a new and fresh beginning.

    He could tell the dimwit Nina ANYTHING and she would believe it. He was WONDERFUL AND PERFECT in her eyes. He reinvented himself and believed his own lies. He believed all the crap that he told about to Nina and she validated his lies and crap.

    He really wasn’t man enough for his 1st wife.

    Maybe he wasn’t happy. It happens. BUT that is not an excuse to destroy families and lie and cheat. He could have admitted he wasn’t happy or needed to address things with his wife to make him feel more fulfilled.

    Instead he was a coward who believed an affair would solve his problems. how selfish.

    So what will happen when Nina no longer makes him happy?

    What will he do then? Will he save face and never admit it? Will he leave her one day as well?

    Will he have perpetual trust issues with Nina b/c their relationship started as an affair?

    Statistically the odds are against them. I’m just saying….

    • Sarah P. March 1, 2017 at 8:41 pm #

      Hi TFW,

      I agree with all of your points here and what will happen down the road.

      It probably was/is a situation where Nina validates his fragile ego. This is probably at least partly due to the power differential involved. I have noticed a lot of people believe doctors are some kind of demi-Gods and treat them as such.

      Also, since Nina would have never been able to attain such status on her own (and since in her mind she felt entitled to such status) it was much easier to steal someone with that status. That is probably what is going on. So those two are getting married and I wonder if anyone will show up for their wedding. Steve lost all of his friends and family over this. Nina lost all of the friends she and her first husband had cultivated. Nina has kids under 12 and so they will probably have to be there by Nina’s orders. (Can you imagine how this situation is scarring her children?)

      I seriously have disgust for people who do this. Because if you think about it, Steve could have ‘woken up’ at any time and put a stop to it all. He could have realized it was the biggest mistake of his life and re-dedicated himself to Christianity and to living a moral life. He may still have lost his family, but somehow I believe that if he truly woke up and repented, his family would eventually want to make amends.

      • TheFirstWife March 2, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

        Sarah. Interesting story back during affair days.

        I saw this email after the fact but to this day it cracks me up.

        My H works in corporate America. Clean cut, no drugs ever, good citizen. Attends church, volunteers and great dad.

        His OW was 20 years younger, drama Queen, covered in tattoos and had difficulty with male-female relationships. Caught her in some major lies – serious lies.

        In any event she wrote an email to my H asking if his friends would accept Her. As the replacement of me. My H (and I swear this is true and how delusional he is) told her that his friends will love her b/c he loves her.

        Hahahahaha

        I can tell you that we have a number of friends who would not be allowed near him &/or the OW because the friend’s wife would never allow it or go along with it.

        He would have lost some of his friends. I know that for sure.

        So that is how delusional some people can be. They are not dealing in reality during an affair and even now he admits he was wrong in that account.

        • Sarah P. March 2, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

          Hi TFW,

          I can see the humor in that because it is so delusional. Some of these men truly lose every ounce of sanity.

          There was a book I read– I forget which one– but it said that during these affairs that happen in MLC situations, the person in the mid-life crisis often picks someone from the bottom of the barrel and someone who is the complete opposite of themselves. So, your H’s behavior went right along with what that book said. He picked someone who was so opposite of himself that it left everyone scratching their heads.

          My dad will sometimes joke that men have ‘testosterone poisoning’ when they act this way. Of course, it is a joke but their might be a teeny shred of truth to it. Who knows.

          • Hopeful March 3, 2017 at 12:43 am #

            So interesting. My husband was total opposite. He said he feared anyone would find out and his worst nightmare would be he would die and I would find out afterwards and he would not be able to tell me himself. I asked him if either ow met, saw photos of our kids or knew anything about them. He looked at me so disturbed and said hell no. He said he would never want the ow to meet our kids that they were so low level he was embarrassed. He told me early on that I could tell anyone or talk to anyone. We did agree early on no telling our kids without a plan together. I also told him if he was going to tell someone I needed to know first. He agreed and has followed it. He has gone through spurts of saying he wants to tell everyone so he can feel authentic. He wants to hold back I know to protect himself in the end. I find it interesting how my husband did what he did and made all of those choices but all along was disgusted by himself. Interesting stuff.

            • theresa March 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

              HPL
              I had not thought of your point to be informed BEFORE
              he decided to confide the very personal details of your situation with someone.
              Thanks

          • Tired March 3, 2017 at 7:08 am #

            It’s true they choose someone completely opposite from themselves. In my case that was true. The OW was no one my husband would have even looked at while single. She was loud, vulgar and had no integrity. But when I found out it was like he became her. He began behaving like her. The opinions that came out of his mouth were all her opinions. Perhaps our husband’s have done this because they were trying to reinvent themselves. They wanted to be this young, stupid, carefree person in order to escape their own responsibilities.

            It is also interesting that after years saying he was happy, suddenly my husband announced he had “been unhappy for years.” Note this only happened when there was the opportunity to cheat. Lol! I think your father is right, Sarah!!

        • Butterball March 4, 2017 at 11:24 am #

          The other day my MIL told OW she has three daughters. She actually only has two, by the third she meant me. It was meant as a warning to OW that she shouldn’t even think about trying to get my husband to divorce me. She said this to her in front of my husband. It really was a big slap in the face.

          • Butterball March 4, 2017 at 11:28 am #

            I should add my husband described it as an “inoculation” meaning it was meant to prevent her from getting any ideas in her head.

  3. Tired March 1, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    She would believe he was wonderful and perfect because she was a non entity herself. Deep down he knows that she was nothing more than an ego stroke. She would not want him if she had other offers. He knows that. The only reason she wanted him was because he was sinking. The only reason a woman would go after a married man is because an unattached one wouldn’t want her. That says a lot about her!

    • Sarah P. March 1, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

      Hi Tired,

      Yes, I agree with all of that.

      I don’t understand this concept of stepping into a situation that belongs to another.

      • Tired March 2, 2017 at 8:25 am #

        What do you mean?

        • Sarah P. March 2, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

          Hi Tired,

          Sorry to sound cryptic. I don’t understand why these women go after married men with a vengeance (even if they believe there are no single men). I don’t understand why they take advantage of men who are sinking. My own personal conscience cannot reconcile such behavior.

          • Tired March 3, 2017 at 5:06 am #

            Very true Sarah. I don’t either. But I think it is more about competing with the wife than it is about the husband. In my case I was more educated and intelligent than her. Definitely better looking…she is ugly, lol. Sorry to blow my own trumpet. Hehehe. I think that she if she had managed to land him she would have got a major ego boost.

            She was always boasting about how all these men wanted her by the way. I find it hard to believe. But the stories could be sad…one of the men who wanted her was a pilot. My opinion is he used her when he was in the country. Probably had a wife in his own country. Another story was that another hopeful became an alcoholic because she didn’t want him. My theory is that only the losers and users wanted her. That’s probably why she found a decent, committed man like my husband so interesting. And of course it’s easier to get a married man to cheat than it is to get a decent single man to commit. Aaah

  4. Hopeful March 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    Cognitive dissonance is exactly what I have here with my husband. I think he is still trying to figure out how that happened. He knows but deep down he knows he knew better. That fits him to a T. And he is so defensive. Everything is my fault. He does own up to things so it is not that. But more if he has to change or be disrupted or do something that is not his first choice then he is super defensive.

    • Sarah P. March 1, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

      Hi Hopeful,

      I am sorry that your husband gets defensive when he is asked to change or do something that is not his first choice. What does he do when you point this out to him?

      • Hopeful March 3, 2017 at 12:49 am #

        He always sees it once I point it out. He admits being wrong in being defensive. I point out the pattern. Honestly that is what concerns me the most is the continued pattern. I am at a loss where to address this. All I can say is it seems like this perpetual pattern. I am so solution focused yet he wants to focus on the present. How convenient for him.

  5. Tired March 3, 2017 at 7:13 am #

    As an aside… now that I have discovered the OW is engaged I am getting more resentful of his disrespectful behaviour. I am starting to wonder if I only didn’t want her to have him. I am seriously considering dumping his cheating ass.

  6. Karen March 3, 2017 at 7:42 am #

    Hi Sarah,

    I am looking forward to next weeks stonewalling. My husbands affair was 5 years ago in January and their is no doubt in my mind that he has not told me the whole truth. He is a rug sweeper and I tell him this and of course he just ignores me. He does not get that we would of been over this had he been honest with me from the start. So know every month I have my moments of rage and get upset and the same thing happens. I do not talk to him for a couple of days and then something happens and I start talking to him and we go back to like everything is fine when I know deep down nothing is fine. He really does not understand even though we just bought a home I am in the process of getting a job have another interview today that I am really thinking of leaving him and I almost think I have to for him to get that I am not going to forget. I cant and wont live with a liar that thinks pretending things did not happen will solve the problem. I understand he is ashamed but he made these choices not me. I have tried to tell him shame is not good. Shame is about him. Guilt is good guilt is about what you did to someone else. Like normal he says nothing. All he is showing me is that he will do it again because for him its so easy to pretend that it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was only once (like I believe that) Parts of his story still do not make sense and I feel he just still thinks I’m the fool I was years ago when I did not know and he thinks he can continue to hide it and I do not know. I am forever changed. He is not the person I thought he was and still is not and he does not get that. I feel I have given him enough time to come clean and move forward yet all he thinks about is himself and if I knew the whole truth he feels I would not stay. I have told him over and over I know the truth and told him what I know and he says NOTHING and think that solves the problem. He does not get that just shows me he has no respect for me no love for me. I honestly believe the only person he loves is himself and he doesn’t even know how terrible of a job he is doing that either.,

    • TheFirstWife March 3, 2017 at 6:57 pm #

      Karen. I am sorry for you. Sorry your H just doesn’t get it. He can choose to talk about it and stop the lying by omission and giving half truthful answers.

      I have. Been in your shoes and dealt with the same thing with my husband many years ago during his first emotional affair.

      He stonewalled, he lied, he had the truth, he swept things under the rug and basically painted me out to be the crazy jealous wife.

      I would ask him to tell me what was going on, I would beg and plead to have a simple conversation with him but he would literally sit there and say nothing.

      I finally stopped asking because it was making me angry. BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER!!

      By letting it go and getting no response from him, the end result was he cheated on me again. His EA lasted 4 years and then 15 years later he cheated again.

      I firmly believe b/c I gave him a pass on the first EA he took advantage of me and cheated again. His last affair almost caused a divorce.

      I am so angry at myself for allowing the disrespect to continue and leading to another affair.

      I suggest finding a counselor for you and you alone. Get someone to help you with this.

      You can ask your H to go to couples counseling but most guys refuse (until they feel desperate). My H would not go until I practically threw him out after the last affair.

      I completely understand your anger and frustration.

      I only found out he knew his first EA was wrong because he admitted it to the last other woman.

      Now I seriously wonder if he hasnt been cheating on me all along.

    • Tired March 4, 2017 at 8:36 am #

      I know exactly how you feel Karen. If only our idiotic husband’s would get it! I’ve only been dealing with this for 18 months. I don’t want to be feeling like this after five years! That’s why I’m seriously considering leaving my husband also.

      My husband’s excuse is also shame. Well he should have thought of that before he did anything stupid! I feel so betrayed. Now he just expects me to pick up where we left off…Impossible!

      If he only knew how much I admired and respected him before this happened. Maybe it’s my fault in part because I never let him know that. But I know that it is not. If he was unhappy he should have said something, rather than expecting me to have psychic capabilities.

    • Sarah P March 7, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      Hi Karen,

      I am sorry to hear about your situation. It is normal to have moments of rage due to your husband’s behavior. Stonewallers can bring out the worst in betrayed spouses. Stonewallers do not understand the harm they are doing by not talking about an affair. It leaves betrayed spouses feeling abandoned, unloved, and uncared for. This in turn can cause tremendous rage in a betrayed spouse.

      Your husband seems to be extremely selfish since he does not want to work through this. If things are not worked through, then yes, it can happen again.

      I am glad that you are getting a job. If I were you, I would not make any rash decisions. I would focus on your new place of employment and focus on doing the best job possible for your new place of employment. Also, I would not share your situation with any coworkers. Offices can be breeding grounds for gossip and some people love talking about other people’s pain. I would keep your head down and focus on excelling in your office. Work for a few months before deciding if you want a divorce. You need to secure your future and also have a different perspective before you make huge decisions.

      I agree that it is difficult to continue to be in a marriage where one person refuses to communicate or work through such a devastating issue. I am going to guess that this is a pattern for him and that he rug sweeps in other areas too. Rug sweeping doesn’t create good marriages and instead corrodes them.

      Again, I am really sad to hear what you are going through.

      -Sarah

      • Karen March 9, 2017 at 12:14 am #

        Sarah,

        Also to everyone else that replied to my post. Thank you for the encouraging words and making me not feel so alone. You are correct he sweeps everything under the rug that I feel like I am more his mother then his spouse. Also thank you for the wise advice for when I do get a job. I know sometime you just want to tell someone but you are right not a good place to share. Again thank you so much you really made my day as well as the others that posted.

    • Shifting Impressions March 7, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

      Hi Karen
      Doug and Linda put out an audio INSIDE THE MIND OF THE UNFAITHFUL (understanding why cheaters do what they do)

      This was so helpful to me in gaining some understanding. I was actually able to get my husband to listen to it as well ( he even listened more than once)

      This dribbling out the truth bit by bit and stonewalling seems to be so classic…….and so completely hurtful. I think almost everyone of us BS will tell you that this has been part of our experience.

  7. Shifting Impressions March 3, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

    Funny, I didn’t think much of it when I first read this post. Just sort of thought that’s interesting. Until my husband went into defensive mode on an issue….not directly related to his EA.
    I feel like someone just hit me upside the back of the head!!!!! I suddenly saw it….CLEAR AS DAY. He uses defensiveness all the time to get what he wants.

    I’m still in shock that I didn’t recognize this defensive mode he goes into for what it is…….he has been using and still is using this mode all the time. I knew I was frustrated when he did it but didn’t really have a name for it.

    Wow….I’m still feeling stunned.

    • Hopeful March 3, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

      SI this is what I am experiencing. I am seeing other aspects of my husband and our relationship in a new way. Not at all related to the affairs but the same behaviors coming out. Nothing as major but I see the patterns as I said in an above post. This is how he operates. I need to look into further how these things differ from gaslighting. They feel the same. And I am doing well related to the affairs etc but even unrelated similar behaviors give me a sick feeling. I could care less if it is about something trivial this is about who he is, how he behaves, how he reacts. At least for my husband it is so clear he is self centered, selfish, looks out for himself first… these have all lessened since dday but they come out when it suits him.

      • TheFirstWife March 3, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

        Noticing the same things with my H.

        It is like living with a perpetual toddler at times.

        One day I made a point how we need to be doing a better job as parents getting our child more organized. I said “we” as a team.

        So 2 weeks later when I asked why they left the house with 4 minutes until sports practice – is that a good model for our son – my H said in his opinion it is ok to leave 4 minutes before practice (it takes at least 5 mins to get there). That is acceptable to him.

        I left the room. Nothing left to talk about. What a selfish jerk!!. Just woukd not admit he was wrong.

        I no longer engage with him in topics like that. I have sooooo moved on!

        I get a better response from my son than my H and I have teen aged sons. Yeesh!!

      • Shifting Impressions March 3, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

        Thanks Hopeful and TFW
        I am seeing patterns of defensive and perhaps gaslighting. The two patterns seem somewhat intertwined.

        My husband is really a very giving and caring person but he does have a way of getting what he wants or not doing something he doesn’t want to do. It’s all pretty subtle or perhaps I’m just starting to see things more clearly. It’s a feeling you get after they have used some of these tactics…..sort of like you have been played.

        And yes they are tactics that were used during and after the affair…….

        I get so tired of it all some days.

  8. TryingHard March 6, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    My h doesn’t even try the defense mode. I’m quick to call bullshit or a look with one word following it “seriously??” Shuts the bs right down. Plus he knows it doesn’t work with me. There is NO defense.

    No my h is a rug sweeper. He won’t engage. I think the next segment of Stonewalling is his gig. He is very very good at turning the conversation to something else. This completely turns me around. We will be talking about one thing and he will speak to it for a while and next thing you know we are onto another subject near and dear to his heart. Like work!!! Sometimes I don’t even bother bringing up a subject because I know nothing will be addressed or solved. And maybe the pribkem doesn’t need to be solved. But I think he will ruminate in his own mind trying to find the correct answer hopefully for himself.

    So even though he will stonewall I know he is thinking about things I’ve brought up. His reactions are always down the road so I look for those answers once he’s figured it out and expound in them at that time. I have to be subtle. I have to plant the seed for thought.

    Even in the throes of discovery there was no defensiveness just lies and avoidance. They are ashamed and eager to get you to forget about it. They will tell just enough and most times it’s shit you already know!!!

    His ability to ignore and sweep major family related problems under the rug and ignore them is mind blowing. We have this very thing going on with his parents right now. But I have decided to detach and not care. I’m a big planner, he is not. I see lots of trouble coming down the road and short of the death of one of them it’s going to be a war!!! I will not be in that line of fire. I will protect myself and what is mine. Anything less and I’m gone. He knows it. So I say bring it on. I’m planning for myself regardless. But he knows I’m strong and I can deal when it all comes down. What makes me sick is all this family turmoil affects our already damaged marriage. It’s a lot of pressure and sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision to stay. I guess I always will.

    Families and marriage can really suck a lot of the time. But I’m not going to play into any of their hands. They are not worth the aggravation.

    Looking forward to your next segment on Stonewalling

    • TheFirstWife March 6, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

      TH. My H is the King of Stonewalling.

      And so is his family. I have seen it in action. During a family emergency he saw it in action and FINALLY the light bulb went off. He saw himself and his behavior towards me and didn’t like what he saw.

      He now realizes 20 years later how it was wrong to stonewall and try to make me the crazy jealous spouse when he knew his EA was wrong all along.

  9. NotRadJustSadDad March 8, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    My wife (who had an emotional affair) stonewalls me constantly. In our last counseling session, she took ownership and apologized for the affair, but outside of counseling continues to refuse to engage in conversation. She always says all that will happen is you will yell at me. I don’t yell, but I get frustrated to the point I point out her issues, which makes her defensive. She was molested as a child by the pastor’s son, and since this was the 70’s, they swept it under the rug and no one did anything. Her parents didn’t stand up for her or try and do anything. Her dad was emotionally unavailable (to everyone, not just her) and her and all her siblings have emotionally poor relationships. She is an engineer and I am an artist/musician from an emotionally expressive family, so that gives you an idea of our role reversals.
    She hasn’t told anyone about the affair, and just shuts herself in her room watching the same romantic movies and playing the same game on her phone over and over. I told her it was the behavior of someone who is not healthy, and she just scoffed”thanks for you professional opinion.”
    I’m going to see our counselor by myself this afternoon. I am at a loss.

    • Sarah P March 8, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

      Hello Sad Dad,

      I am very sorry to hear about your situation and I am glad you reached out to us.

      I don’t know if this will help but… the emotional affair is not about you. Affairs are never about the betrayed spouse, but this becomes even more clear when a wayward spouse experienced sexual abuse in the past. I have noticed that people who were the victims of sexual abuse end up sexually acting out (especially affairs) if they have not been to therapy to address the sexual abuse. Even if someone has had therapy, not all therapists are skilled in addressing this type of trauma.

      Your wife needs to see a separate therapist to address the abuse she experienced in childhood. She also needs to address how she felt when the abuse was swept under the rug. By the way, even though she experienced this in the 70’s, this type of rug sweeping is still going on today. Most families do not know how to deal with sexual trauma and often fall into patterns where it is ignored. It is hard to image why, but it is a common reaction.

      It is interesting that your wife is an engineer. It is a very logical and unemotional profession. It is emotionally safe because engineering is cut and dry, black and white, and involves numbers. It would not be hard to imagine that your wife is cut off from her emotional self since the pain she experienced was never validated or dealt with.

      I would like to know who the other man is because I can imagine that he reminds her of someone who hurt her and she is probably subconsciously trying to work through the pain she experienced. Or, it could be that she only wants to play around in an emotional world in a very specific context. In the end, most people don’t have to do anything for their affair partners and don’t have to commit. She can try out emotions without a relationship ending up in commitment. In it’s own unhealthy way, she might feel this is helping her. (Of course, such a thought is ridiculous to those of us on the outside, but warped thinking on the part of the wayward spouse is the hallmark of relationships where infidelity is present.) Finally, the EA could be thought of within the context of power and it could be subconsciously motivated by power. Being sexually abused is the ultimate situation that makes an individual feel powerless. Some adults will be drawn toward relationships where they can have power over someone. Since your wife is married, she cannot give herself to the other man, but she can call the shots and this in essence gives her power over him and the situation.

      I know that this only provides cold comfort. But, please, see your own therapist and let your therapist know about her childhood. Make sure that she sees a therapist separately. She must face the past head on with a therapist who is experienced in treating trauma.

      How are your children doing with all of this? How are you holding up on a day to day basis?

      Sarah

      • NotRadJustSadDad March 9, 2017 at 8:04 am #

        Thanks,
        Yesterday wasn’t so good. I took a pastor friend of mine (who knows my situation and my wife well) to see my counselor. It was very helpful. I know she and I have a codependent relationship, I just keep forgetting how dependent I am emotionally on her. Her not working on the homework the counselor assigns or reading any of the books recommended had brought me to the point of an anxiety attack yesterday. I need to truly let her go and allow God to do the work in her and not try so hard to want to see her “fixed”.

        Interestingly, the AP (coworker) is someone very, very similar to me. Funny, charming, a story teller, music lover. The main difference is that he is more mature and thinks like an engineer.
        I think she was looking for emotional validation from him. My wife has been so critical and controlling, I shut down on her in many ways. I eventually grew tired of it I started “fighting back” and defending myself and started being very critical of her as well. He was struggling in his marriage as well, and I think the emotional camaraderie led to the EA. I allowed her to go to lunches with him (and occasionally joined them) because he was a friend and I trusted her. Hindsight of course…

        My children are doing “ok”. Since the affair ended (4 months long, and she confessed after a sermon on sin) and we have been in counseling, we don’t really fight, at least not in front of the kids or loud enough for them to hear us. The affected more by our fighting than they are now. They know we are in counseling, but not the real reason why. We’ve told them it was communication issues and the inability to handle conflict effectively. Because of emotional distance and the fact that she pretty much checked out of family life (and kind of life in general) over 3 years ago, they generally are more understanding of me than her. I also have changed my behavior a lot and don’t yell at them and am less critical of them, so they are more responsive to me than my wife.

        Day to day normally has been decent. Recently her stonewalling has really affected me, hence yesterday. So, day to day.

        • TheFirstWife March 9, 2017 at 10:15 am #

          Dear SadDad

          I am so sorry for you. I understand your situation with the stonewalling and lack of focus by your wife. It is maddening to be felt like you are her second choice.

          My thetapist helped me get over a few of these situations. I had PTSD for 2 years after my H had his last affair and was saying divorce, divorce, divorce.

          1. You are looking for information from your wife and she will not provide it. Is the detail really important in the overall scope of the EA? Does it matter if she had 10 lunches or 50 lunches you did not know about. My therapist would say it is an insignificant detail.

          2. She will not answer questions. She is being a typical cheater. You have to accept it or you will lose your mind. I am not saying she is right in her behavior BUT it is what it is.

          3. You cannot change her.

          4. You can learn to manage your reaction to her behavior. I used to spend 2 hours arguing w/my H over affair stuff. Looking back I should have just left the room when he started his stonewalling and lying. I eventually learned to say to him “I am sorry that you don’t love me enough or respect me or have confidence that you can tell me the truth and we can discuss it”. It lets the Cheating spouse know you are not playing the game.

          And I lived with 4 years of stonewalling on my H’s first EA and years of lying about his last affair.

          If you can learn to manage your reactions then you may come across stronger and maybe she will respond differently.

          No idea why people behave the way they do. But I can tell you when I stopped worrying about whether he was going to leave me and started focusing on me (and not him) I felt better.

          I noticed when I disengaged with him HE started looking for me.

          • NotRadJustSadDad March 9, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

            I’ve been doing really well on working on me, but what I’m not doing well is letting her inaction and lack of effort affect my thought life. I see how things are helping me and think “if she just read these books, if she just rededicated her life to Christ, if, if, if. The therapist said I just have to let her go and whatever happens, happens. My wife said she is dedicated to the marriage, and working on it, but she is stuck, and my codependency doesn’t help her to want to do anything.
            I could care less about the details. If I knew, I would just obsess. She confessed to the EA on her own, and I had enough details from then, so I don’t need anymore.

            • TheFirstWife March 9, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

              SadDad. I understand how you feel.

              I thought during my H’s sffair if he knew how much I loved him he would stop the affair. If he read an article I thought was helpful he would stop the affair.

              It did not work. He resisted everything I suggested.

              What did work? When I finally stopped trying. When I had enough and just didn’t cate about the marriage. When I started to have my own life and go out and do things without him. Didn’t even ask or invite him.

              Sometimes I justvwent to the library and sat and read. Just to be away from him and the drama.

              It worked. He finally started trying after I almost threw him out. When I had nothing left.

              Maybe try for one week NOT asking her anything – just exist in the same space. See what happens. You may be surprised.

            • TryingHard March 9, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

              Sad Dad—I can’t dress this enough. It’s about you now. Affirming YOU. You did nothing to make her have an affair and you can do nothing to stop it. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Cheaters, make and female HATE , reading those books. Especially early on. Let her see you reading them. Seriously be happy with YOUR accomplishments and new found knowledge. If you have to look in the mirror and drive that damn point home YOU ARE OK AND YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT AND YOU WILL BE OK. Si damn hard right now because all you want to say is “read this stuff, they are talking about you” worse thing ever. It has to be HER idea. So set a good example. Be the change you want to see in her

              You got this

  10. NotRadJustSadDad March 9, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    Well, if y’all are pray-ers, I sure would appreciate it. If not, positive thoughts are just as nice. I’m grateful for your words of encouragement.

  11. TryingHard March 9, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

    Si Sad Dad— prayer and good thoughts. While thinking of you there’s “I know the thoughts I have for you and they are good “. I’m not book and verse memorized but I know this applies to you. God lies by bring pain. He is their when we have pain and challenges. Hold firm to that

    Also hold firm you can’t change others, only yourself. I know that sounds abstract right now but little by little take care of YOU. Don’t focus si much on her. You will go crazy. Focus on you. Baby steps too. So do something nice for you. I don’t know what you like , working out, walking the dog, golf, tennis… anything just do it even if you are distracted. lol for me it was ckaeaning up my home. I know. I’m pathetic. Si maybe fir it’s working in your yard or cleaning your car. No judgement here.

    Things won’t change overnight. Things will never go aback as before. You’ve got a long road my frien with 5 steps forward 3 steps back. But I promise PROMISE you will get there

    • blueskyabove March 9, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

      God lies by bring pain? What does that mean? I’ve searced my brain for an explanation and cannot come up with an answer! Please enlighten me.

      • TryingHard March 9, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

        UGH. I’m such a loser and fat finger. No. God does not bring us pain!!! He is there for us when we have to experience it. Hope that clears it up. And fOR the record GOD DOES NOT LIE EVER

        • blueskyabove March 9, 2017 at 11:18 pm #

          So, what were you actually meaning to say? I’m just curious because I can’t figure it out.

  12. blueskyabove March 9, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    searched! my brain, etc.

  13. NotRadJustSadDad March 9, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

    Thanks again guys. I figured out quite a while ago that I wasn’t the cause for the affair. I’ve been fully aware of her brokenness for quite a few years. I did that whole codependent “I love her so much, I can fix her” crap for far too long and finally gave up. I heard on a video yesterday that “in the west, most be people go through 2 or 3 marriages in their lifetime, sometimes with the same person.” We had a good talk last night and I shared that. I said “I’m looking forward to our next marriage” and she nodded in agreement.
    I don’t want things to go back the way they were. They were good of course when we started, but after kids (I stayed home for 10 years), and her family being codependent with her, it just got hard. She has run her family since she was 13 after her dad had a breakdown and was diagnosed bi-polar, being in control is all she knows.
    I want our marriage to be as it should have been. A partnership.

    • Sarah P. March 12, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

      Hello Sad Dad,

      It was Esther Perel who talked about people having more than one marriage with the same person. Esther said that she has had four marriages with her husband. (I don’t believe any actually ended in divorce, but they all ‘ended’ emotionally and had to be rebuilt again from the ashes.)

      I see several things that led up to your wife’s actions. A perfect storm had been brewing for a long time: tremendous stressors, enmeshment in family of origin which caused a need to be in control, the fact that your wife had been ‘parentified’ due to her dad’s breakdown, etc. I am going to guess that your wife also had some low-level depression. In my next post, one of things I will talk about is low-level depression and how it can make someone ripe for an affair.

      In your wife’s case, the affair is only an outgrowth of external and internal stressors. She needs to go through an effective course of therapy to address core issues because the core issue is not the affair– it is the brokenness. Healing from the affair will not be enough in her case– she needs to go look at the root causes. I hope that she is aware of this and I hope she will see someone.

      I believe that both people willing, marriages can be restored and happy again even after disasters.

      Sarah

      • NotRadJustSadDad March 18, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

        At our last counseling session this week, the counselor is trying to get our emotional safety and interactions better. Trying to find areas where we can come together safely and without the flooding of emotions. She said after we get more emotionally safe and communicating better, THEN we’ll be able to get to the root causes.
        I wish we could afford to go once a week. But schedule-wise and money-wise, every two to three weeks is all we can do.
        She is in heavy denial about her brokenness and how her family of origin issues affected our marriage. I get a little frustrated sometimes with counseling and the counselor because I feel like she is focusing on me and my issues and aren’t focusing on my wife’s issues and why they led to the EA. I keep having to remind myself that even though I’m pretty wrecked by all that has happened, I’m still willing to work at healthy change while my wife can’t at the moment, and that is why the counselor is working on my stuff more.

        • TryingHard March 19, 2017 at 11:53 am #

          SadDad–I’ve got a lot to say concerning your therapy and sadly I only have my tablet to type my response. So apologies for any typos un advance

          First of all not all MC are created equal. Not all MC are well versed in infidelity. You MC is at a starting place. Your job right now is to A gather information. Let the counselor go with her questions and assertions however do NOT accept her assigning you any blame for your wife’s choices. She always had options and she chose the worst ones. Be ready for a retort. Ask her if your actions have a direct correlation to the cause of your wife’s cheating. Ask her how do and be ready to offer up YOUR alternatives like talking to you about her feelings. Be ready to listen and answer. But mostly gather info about your wife. Therapy is not to change your wife but to understand. You will learn a lot and most you won’t like. She has very deep character issues.

          What really makes me mad in all this is your MC automatically thanking the woman’s side!!! It happens and it’s bullshit. Women are just as culpable as men when it comes to cheating. They are just as secretive and manipulating and lying as male cheaters. And that is what she is. A cheater. That needs to be dealt with right now. Her poor choices NOT what YOU did to “cause” them. You MC is going after the low hanging fruit by taking this stance. It is up to you to redirect her. You need to state emphatically you accept NO responsibility for her cheating. That you are there to fix your marriage with the MC help. If she can’t do it you need to look for a new MC.

          I had to direct mine too. My MC suggested she could mediate our divorce. I told her emphatically HELL NO I didn’t need her fir that. I had a great lawyer that was taking care of my legal and financial future. If we weren’t there to get through my husbands affair recovery and fir her to facilitate a reconciliation the BYE BYE!

          Yes MC is expensive and time consuming but it is imperative. Figure it out budget wise and time wise. Prioritize it. If you have to go without something than sacrifice because let me tell you, you will be spending that money and time one way or another!! Divorce ain’t cheap. Neither is cheating!!!

          And this is where you take care of you. Go into MC with the point of fixing and helping YOU not HER. she has to make the choice to do the same not you. You may learn so much about her and your marriage. You will learn so much you may come to a point of strength that you decide if she doesn’t want to grow and change you might just move on without her and be better for it. But she also is being given a gift of second chances. She shouldn’t take that gift for granted. And you will know.

          Look I know it’s hard but always let her and the MC know that divorce is always on the table and will be for some time. Do not be the door mat. Do not let them bully you as females. Also I would let the MC know that is how you are feeling.

          You have worth and value and you deserve compassion and respect not blame. Do not accept anything less.

          Now you need to put the big boy pants on and assert yourself and your expectations to both these women. If I can do it you can too.

        • blueskyabove March 19, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

          NotRadJustSadDad

          For what it’s worth, I didn’t read in your comment that the counselor was blaming you for the affair.  I got the distinct impression in your first paragraph that you were pleased with the direction your sessions were going.  Our therapist said almost the exact same thing to us.  She said she was focusing on me first because as the one who had been betrayed, I was the partner that was most traumatized and she wanted me to have a place where I felt safe to discuss the betrayal.   It helped tremendously.  Outside of her office our conversations were very emotionally charged, but for one hour out of the week I felt like I could relax a little and take a breath knowing I was in a safe place.

          During the first few sessions, my husband was required to listen, and not run out of the room in a huff if he didn’t like what he was hearing.    She was respectful to both of us, but she was also firm.  She did not take sides, but we both felt she wouldn’t stand for anything less than the truth…from either of us.  I will be forever grateful to her for helping me with my issues…and there were several.  She helped me with my being unable to get a good night’s sleep.  She got me to recognize the lies I was telling myself about myself, the stories I was making up about my husband and his affair partner, all the usual garbage betrayed spouses are wont to do.  Not once did she suggest the affair was my fault.  She wasn’t prone to labeling people or determining who was most at fault.  She was the consummate professional and  was able to guide us both toward a more successful recovery than we could have done on our own.  If you feel this way about your counselor then I recommend you stick with her.

          • TryingHard March 19, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

            BlueSky–that is great advice and a great example of a good therapist. You were lucky to find one

            • blueskyabove March 19, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

              TryingHard

              I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with your observation… luck had nothing to do with it.

              Many years ago while my husband was in the midst of his first affair (unbeknownst to me at the time I might add) we saw a marriage counselor who had no qualms taking sides.  It was several months later when I discovered the affair, and by this time the so-called counselor was out of the picture.  That was when I discovered my husband had not only deceived me but also the counselor.

              While my husband sat through each session and lied through his teeth, the counselor thought he was a great guy while I  was the obvious problem.  Trust me when I tell you I was not going to pay for another less than stellar counselor/therapist.  I would not only have left a session immediately if I had had any inkling of favoritism from the last therapist, I probably would have reported her to the authorities.  There is no doubt in my mind that the first counselor was instrumental in my feelings toward myself when I discovered the last affair.  It’s hard to overcome negativism when it comes from an authority figure.  I’ve had to do a lot of clawing to get out of the hole that I had spent years denying existed, and the therapist we last saw was hugely instrumental in helping me.

              In retrospect, I do feel fortunate in being able to recognize the difference between a lousy, or even mediocre, professional and an exceptional one, but I also recognize that self-honesty is invaluable.  I now realize that each person on this triangle is hurting in some way and I’m thankful I made different choices.  I do not want to even temporarily feel good about myself at someone else’s expense.  I have enough on my plate without adding more to it.

              • TryingHard March 19, 2017 at 10:10 pm #

                Sbluesky– I believe in making your own luck. You made yours through experience and others dishonesty. Kudos to you

                Indeed the triangle contains broken people. I didn’t know I was broken until DDay 1. Two selfish people broke me. I broke no one. I was collateral damage as far as they were concerned. For that I don’t give one fig about anyone else’s brokenness or hurt. I have no more fucks to give! They hurt or are broken there’s help out there. Find it. Get smart. Act within the rules of society. Quit being a narcissistic sociopath.

                It’s really much easier to do the right thing. My h is finding that out. As far as the OW I couldn’t care less what her happiness quotient is or isn’t. I couldn’t care any less about her brokenness. As you said I’ve got bigger things to worry about

              • NotRadJustSadDad March 20, 2017 at 7:51 am #

                I don’t think the therapist is taking sides either. She knows my wife shuts down, and she knows my wife comes from an emotionally dysfunctional family. She is also aware I am way more in touch with my emotions and she knows the books I’ve read and a website that I go to. I’ve shared articles/video’s from that website and thinks it’s an awesome resource. Do I think she could be doing better? Beats me, I’m not a counselor and have never been in counseling before.I am someone who probably reads too much and applies what I read as “my wife needs to work on this,” “this is sooo my wife”. I mean, I apply a lot to myself, but I think I obsess a little about my wife getting “fixed” so she can be in the same space I’m am in. It isn’t going to happen in the ways I would like, and it’s completely out of my hands. I can’t “fix” my wife. I can’t heal her brokenness. All I can do is focus on my healing, on allowing God to “fix” me, and let go and let her do it at her speed.

                I’m an impatient man. I come from a family of “fixers”. People always come to my family for counseling/advice, whatever. I’m a little more used to helping others and not myself. I think that’s why I’m frustrated as well. I’m not healing like I expected to. I’m not implementing the stuff I’m reading as well as I would like. I still struggle with flooding. I want this shit to be behind me and on to a new, healthy relationship with my wife. It ain’t going to happen overnight. Or in a year. I’m pretty self-aware, but it doesn’t really make it any easier some days.

                • TryingHard March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am #

                  SadDad–good I’m glad you have faith in your MC.

                  Oh how I know your place. I actually would read the books and highlight for him!!! LOL what an effort in futility. He would not read them and I get it. Too humiliating especially when they just want it all to go away. It’s like when you are reading you see great epiphanies and you are dying to share, “here look read this. This is us” but sadly no because they are not into the same epiphanies we are currently in. The cheater does not feel the same pain and they dint want to feel that pain. They just can’t relate.

                  So yes you may be a fixer but the one that needs fixing is you right now. Of course we’d love the help from the one that broke it but it’s just not there to be had. Sometimes being a fixer is called co-dependency. And I’m not saying that’s what you are but I have found becoming educated in co-dependency really helped me

                  And yes we are all impatient. We want to fast track this crap, move in, let it go and get back to life. Unfortunately that’s not how it works. It does take time and is not for the weak if heart but neither is divorce. This crap is not easy or fast. Give yourself a break my friend. I promise one way or another you will figure this out.

                • TheFirstWife March 20, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

                  SadDad. My family is a group of fixers. Same as yours.

                  And I understand your frustration with your wife. After I realized my H’s affair was a mid life crisis I tried to offer up suggestions and “help”. He resented me for it. It was done with kindness and understanding but “he didn’t need help”.

                  Hahaha. He’s havibg an affair and leaving me with NO NOTICE and no real marriage issues and he doesn’t need help.

                  Afterv3 months I stopped trying so hard. I focused on me. Best choice so that when I found out months later that the affair that had stopped was still going on, I was in a better place.

                  You cannot help someone who doesn’t see or feel they need it.

                  But you can help yourself. be able to deal with your wife in a better way. My H & I struggled for 3 long years to put our marriage back together.

                  He was always a good H and father. But his mid life crisis overtook him and he fell into a trap of his own making. Luckily he was able to get out before it was too late.

                  And now he is better – and recognizes his issues and lack of communication over the years. Not very bad but he felt shut off from me. But that is his family dynamic – don’t discuss things – bury it.

                  Anyway I know yoyr frustration but please recognize some people don’t want to or can’t help themselves. Some people think everyone else is the problem and they don’t need help. And for some it is just too painful. So they bury their head and remain stuck in the same warp.

                  Doesn’t mean you have to.

        • Hopefull March 20, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

          Sad Dad, I can see the perspective of the commenters making sense. I do think therapist like any professionals vary and some are a good fit for some and others are not. There are many therapist that take the woman’s side no matter what. I also know in general most do not have a lot of training in this specific area. And most have generalist practices. It does not mean that they are bad or not a fit for you and your wife. I did choose to find someone that had a background and only deals with marital therapy and therapy related to infidelity. I think it is a personal preference. Also if you are dealing with a lot still most therapist will put you on a payment plan. So if you cannot pay the full amount now you can spread the payments out. That way you can get more therapy in now and then over time you can spread your appointments out and make the payments manageable over time. Also with her personal issues it might make sense for her to see someone for herself.

          I totally understand the fix it mentality. It is a great mentality to have. My husband is that type of person. He is in the mental health field himself. He is great at what he does but he did not deal well with his own life. He had all the background, education, skills, training, professional experience and still did everything to betray not only me and our marriage but most of all himself. We are in a great spot but I underestimated the damage he did to himself. He made so many poor decisions and he just spiraled. He of course hurt me and our marriage but he really hurt himself. I guess in the end like you and all of us say we can only fix ourselves.

          One thing that helped my husband progress was him seeing me progress. It really gave him hope and the desire to commit since I was doing so well myself. I journaled all the time and that helped me even to just look back and reflect and see how far I had come. This is a lot for anyone to deal with. You are doing a great job. Stick with it and take good care of yourself.

  14. NotRadJustSadDad March 13, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    She’a always said her trauma is in the past, so it’s behind her. At her fathers funeral a couple months ago, her mom told her and her siblings “we will NOT cry at the funeral. So this is a major part of our struggle. Her family would rather go years not talking, than confront an issue in a healthy manner.
    She also denies she has a drinking problem or is even the slightest depressed. But she drinks alone every night and outside of our counselor, hasn’t told anyone about the affair. Her family is clueless we’ve been in counseling.

    • TheFirstWife March 13, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

      SadDad. So sorry you are facing these multiple issues.

      I hope counsrling goes the trick and she finds some support and help. She is lucky to have someone who will stuck by her.

    • TheFirstWife April 3, 2017 at 4:20 pm #

      How are things going SadDad? Hope they are looking up.

      • NotRadJustSadDad April 4, 2017 at 7:49 am #

        They are going ok. We are talking (not deep stuff) better. She’s starting to laugh at my jokes/humor again. (my humor was one of the things she was attracted most to) Regular conversations flow a little easier as well.

        But, she is drinking a little more, and still pretty much stays in the bedroom watching movies every night.

        So, a little better, about the same.

        Thank you for asking though.

  15. Hopeful March 14, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Sad dad,

    Just a few comments since you have had a lot of good info on here already.

    Alcohol is a depressant. I truly think it is one of the worst things for anyone struggling with themselves, their past or present. Even if someone is not an addict they can be dependent and not even realize how destructive it is. My husband is in the mental health field and he knows all of this but still took part. He never has drank daily but I would say for him it was more binge drinking 1-2 days a month. It was so seldom but the effects were noticeable. At the time there was no convincing. Now he has a new perspective and we have set specific boundaries related to alcohol consumption.

    I think one of the best things I did was learning how to talk with my husband and manage my feelings related to coping with his affairs. I found early on the dynamic we created was not effective. In the end I would walk away feeling worse and like nothing was accomplished. I tended to get too emotional and he would get defensive and shut down. we decided to pick on day/time each week we would
    Discuss the affairs/our marriage or whatever was needed. By selecting one day it was not a constant focus then the other times we were together were more positive. I wrote daily. Sometimes it was my thoughts, questions… before our weekly meeting I would scan my writings and that would help me see patterns. That way I could bring up 1-2 topics. Otherwise I tended to rant and go off on tangents. This way we would zero in. I would state my issue and work at listening. In the end I would feel more satisfied and that we made some progress. In turn my husband is not defensive at all anymore. I find the more matter of fact I am the better things go. It does not mean I do not show any emotions.

    Good luck!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Web Analytics

Clicky